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Why more minority founders aren’t backed by venture capital funding

Funding for any new business venture is a critical step that will often determine its ultimate success. Many businesses sink far too early in the process when founders are unable to secure access to capital. Unfortunately, women and minority business owners are more likely to be denied venture capital funding and bank loans compared to white, male founders.  

Why aren’t more minority founders backed by venture capital funding? (Business card photo created by rawpixel.com – www.freepik.com)

According to an article by Forbes, in the past year, only 2.6% of venture dollars went to minorities and 2.2% went to women. In total, that is only $4.2 billion out of the $87.3 billion venture capital was distributed. Additionally, as of January 2021, only 93 Black and 58 Latinx women have ever raised over $1M.

This lack of VC funding for women- and minority-owned businesses is part of an ongoing cycle and diversity issue within the entire venture capital process. The fact of the matter is, diverse venture capitalists (VCs) and limited partners (LPs) will be more likely to invest in diverse founders and entrepreneurs. But so far, these roles have been saturated predominantly by white, male individuals. 

Breaking old patterns 

In an article by Fast Company, Leah Solivan discusses her experiences in securing venture capital funding for her startup and shares ideas on how the old pattern can be broken. In sharing her experience she describes how she first struggled to secure funding because she “didn’t match the pattern.” As a woman and a Latina, these modifiers made her an “other” in the eyes of traditional venture capitalists. She was not the typical founder. 

“VCs had an idea of what successful founders looked like, and they didn’t look like me,” Leah shared in her article. “It took another woman of color hearing my pitch to open up opportunities for me. And that woman, Ann Miura-Ko, was only in a position to say “yes” to me because another VC (Floodgate’s Mike Maples) took a chance on her. As a founder and CEO, I recruited a diverse team of talented individuals who brought different backgrounds and life experiences to the table. Many of these people have gone on to become founders themselves, building their own teams. Others have gone on to become venture capitalists. This is the virtuous cycle of wealth creation in action. And all it took to get it going was one VC deciding to take a chance on someone who didn’t match the pattern.”

This process that she describes is exactly how we can work to break old patterns within the venture capital process. We need diverse LPs who can then fund venture capital funds. And diverse VCs will then seek out and fund diverse founders. These founders can then give opportunities to their diverse team members and employees who can then grow to become their own founders or investors. 

Minority business owners and entrepreneurs, especially Latinos, have great potential to grow and thrive with the right backing. According to the Stanford Research 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report, Latinos are starting businesses at a faster rate than the national average across several industries, growing 34 percent over the last 10 years compared to just 1 percent for all other small businesses. Additionally, the report showed that over the past two-years, Latino-owned firms grew revenue at an average of 25 percent per year while white-owned businesses grew revenue at 19 percent.

Moreover, much of the growth in the number of new businesses among Latinos has been driven by women. Latinas represent 40% of all Latino business owners and the number of Latina-led employer firms has grown 20% within the last five-year period.

Forbes also reported that in the last year, 40% of new businesses were started by women and 47% of those businesses were started by minority women. 

You might be interested: Dr. Marlene Orozco demystifies misconceptions about Latinas through data 

We need diverse venture capitalists to support diverse founders

“Capital remains in the communities that manage it,” says Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital. Earlier this year, Ivelisse spoke as a panelist during Latina in Business’ virtual panel, “Latina Small Business Post-Covid: Recovery Resources and Trends. There she shared trends in investment capital and discussed why many women and minority owned businesses struggle to access capital. 

Ivelisse Rodriguez Simon, Managing Partner of Avante Capital.

There’s about $70 trillion of capital to manage in the United States and only 1% of that capital is managed by women or people of color. So even though women and people of color represent 75% of the US population, we only manage 1% of the capital. And the result of that is that our communities don’t get access to that capital.” 

To break this cycle, we need diverse venture capitalists and limited partners. Ivelisse says that this is an issue Avante has been really committed to. “Not only supporting women and people of color managing businesses but really trying to get women and people of color into this industry to manage capital so that we can go out and find entrepreneurs from our communities and help them grow. Because if there are not many people in my seat that look like us, our people are never gonna get capital,” she says

Don’t miss our Summer Speakers Series and Networking Blast Events throughout August!  Interested in learning how to access business funding for your venture? Sign up for our August 11th workshop, “Resources to Increase Your Business Revenue.” 

While pushing for more diversity throughout the various positions in the venture capital funding process, we also need to hold venture capitalists accountable. It should not only be the job of diverse and minority venture capitalists to fund diverse founders and entrepreneurs. More venture capitalists need to be willing to take risks. After all, is that not the point of “venture” capitalists. 

As Leah Solivan nicely said, “Venture capital was once a business that took big bets on outsiders—it wasn’t long ago that the college drop-out computer nerd cliché was a novel, risky opportunity. As the industry has matured, we’ve defaulted to pattern matching (which too often means young, white males that resemble those once-novel success stories) instead of seeking out founders of different backgrounds, different geographies, different skill sets, and different demographics. Our current cycle tries to play it safe. There’s nothing virtuous about that, and it also runs contrary to the ethos of venture capital—which is about taking a chance on something or someone with the potential for disruption.” 

We need diversity in all stages of the venture capital process. We need to break-down old patterns and biases about what a founder looks like. And we need to hold traditional venture capitalists accountable and push them back to their roots, to take risks on something new, and take a chance on the underdog.